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THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE

About The Production
THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE began as an astonishing autobiographical tale of the same name. Written by Latif Yahia, who was ripped from his family and forced to become the fiday (which translates roughly as "bullet catcher”) to Saddam's lunatic son Uday Hussein, the book was a glimpse into the deeply depraved web of fast cars, endless money, easy women, pure corruption, and wanton violence in which Yahia was captive for years.

The outrageous antics and appalling incidents he witnessed during his time as the indentured doppelganger to Iraq's notorious "Black Prince” begged to be committed to film. But beyond the shocking substance, the story left ample room for style translated onto the big screen. It presented a prime opportunity to capture the over the top sights and textures of the Iraqi palace in the late 1980's, in all of its gilded gangster-style glory. As star Dominic Cooper marvels, "it's just an incredible world in which to set a film.”

THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE was made into a motion picture by Belgian producers Paul Breuls and Catherine Vandeleene of Corsan and Dutch producers Michael John Fedun of Corrino and Emjay Rechsteiner of Staccato. Executive producers are Harris Tulchin and Arjen Terpstra.

The producers first secured screen rights to Yahia's story, conducted extensive interviews with Yahia and wrote a treatment. But the real fun began when the producers enlisted screenwriter Michael Thomas (SCANDAL, BACKBEAT) to craft the adaptation. Thomas connected with Yahia, an international man of mystery who currently lives in an undisclosed European country and drives a Mercedes that was allegedly given to him by the Queen of England, and so began the ride of his life.

Preparing to write the film, Thomas traveled to Syria where Yahia was located at the time, and was welcomed into an Arab world that was "like something out of The Sopranos." What was most key to his research from the experience was seeing the Iraqi ex-patriots' "sense of responsibility to family, their wish to die a good death, and their conviction that it didn't matter when it came. There was a fatalism there that was essential for me to understand, one that Westerners just don't share."

Although this understanding certainly colored his adaptation, for the most part everything he needed to write the screenplay was right there in Yahia's life story. "Actually I reluctantly had to give up certain things that the movie couldn't fit. There's a lot more, and a lot worse on the record than what I was even able to touch upon in the screenplay."

The producers set about finding the right director who would rise to the challenge of such a brutally uncompromising story of unbridled lust, absolute power and unqualified corruption. After considering several names, the producers set their minds on Lee Tamahori, whose ONCE WERE WARRIORS had the exact visceral qualities they were looking for in bringing THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE to screen. It was his interpretation of THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE as a next SCARFACE that "blew them away".

The producers on their choice for Tamahori: "We've always admired Lee's work – ONCE WERE WARRIORS especially where we loved the way he's dealt with violence, because it's not traditional choreographed violence. It's really true grit. And this is a film that has everything to do with violence in its purest form."

The very premise of the film had Lee invested immediately, "I've always been fascinated by despots and dictators, their families and their children, the world they grow up in, how they live and how they die." He goes on to explain "I think we all secretly quite like criminals. We want to see them get their comeuppance, but there's something strangely attractive about them.”

The style of the script, though, also worked for Tamahori the instant he read it. He describes how "Michael writes in a rock and roll fashion, which I like. It's quite unusual in that it allows you to be interpretive of what's written, but has an utmost authenticity."

The question of authenticity was one to grapple with for a team of filmmakers making a movie based on an autobiography. Although the premise of the film was directly based in the circumstances of Yahia, and many of the horrific individual events depicted in the film were indeed experienced by him, the filmmakers decided early on to "embark on this as a work of fiction, and use the book as an inspiration for a gangster film, which to me is in its purest form a great genre of movies,” director Tamahori observes.

He further explains that "Biopics are not my favorite movies because they always try to steer too close to the facts. But the truth doesn't set you free in movies. Truth layered with fiction sets you free.”

Even though the film wasn't meant to be of the documentary or biopic oeuvres, Yahia himself was on set to consult during the making of the film. For him, the experience was cathartic and overwhelming. He describes how "in a way, something was relieved out of me, the sadness that I had before. My story is being told and it's a release.” He goes on to explain how when you're living through an intense experience, "You can't see yourself until somebody shows you what you are. And it wasn't until I watched this movie being made that I was seeing for the first time really clearly and objectively the kind of life I'd had. I had to take some valium to be able to watch some of the scenes, especially the shootings.”

It was clear from the start that both roles of Uday Hussein, sadistic son of a crazed ruler, and Latif Yahia, the upstanding citizen soldier, would be played by one actor. The entire film hinges on this central performance, which is in fact not one but three: the actor as Latif, as Uday, and as Latif impersonating Uday and becoming more and more like him.

It was a tall order to find someone for the role who had both the discipline to handle the demanding production and the range to make both characters credible. The filmmakers also set out to find someone who was relatively unknown, and would be able to fully disappear into the roles.

Dominic Cooper was, in Lee's eyes, the perfect fit. "Dominic is stunning. We found a young, versatile, clever, talented actor, who knocked our socks off as both Latif and Uday,” says the director.

The part marks Dominic Cooper's feature film lead debut, having played supporting roles in the hugely successful MAMMA MIA! and the critically acclaimed AN EDUCATION, and starred with Helen Mirren in the London National Theater's staging of Shakespearean tragedy Phedre. Cooper himself was gripped by the dual roles as soon as he'd finished reading the script. "For an actor,” comments Cooper, "you can't ask for more in terms of the range it asks of you to play two lead characters who are so utterly different, who sort of meet in the middle and then merge. I loved the exploration of how we can disguise ourselves and become something that we're not, and how we are forever haunted by that thing we'd temporarily become.”

The actor wasn't immediately able to sink his teeth into the role of Uday, however. It's common wisdom among actors that one can't play a part unless a core to the character is found to be relatable, or at least understandable. This was a hurdle for Cooper when it came to Uday, for obvious reasons. "I just despised the man. There was nothing that I could see in him that I could latch on to and like. It was beyond my capabilities to get into the mindset of a man who did the things he did.” Ultimately thou

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